Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Thought 360: The Question Concerning Authority

Thinker Hannah Arendt saw authority in a positive light as constituting the opposite of violence, which in her thinking arises when there is a breakdown in authority and the resulting power vacuum causes conflict to occur. 

She also tended to make light of slavery in the classical world as enabling the possibility of freedom for those delivered from the necessity of labour through daily chores being carried out by slaves.

By contrast anarchist activist Mark Passio views the belief in authority as synonymous with the belief in the legitimacy of slavery, understanding as he does authority as entailing the existence of masters ruling over slaves.

This apparent antagonism can be somewhat resolved in Passio's favour by distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate forms of authority. 
  • Illegitimate authority is authority based on coercion, i.e. violence, forcing people to act a certain way against their own free will in submission to masters who act in plain sight or by stealth
  • Legitimate authority is authority that emanates naturally from some individuals and creators who have come to be respected through their contribution to the community, there being no trace of coercion but just wilful deference to these authors, so to speak. 
Personally I find Mark Passio's Natural Law teachings a welcome corrective to risky and rather toxic aristocratic biases that can be found in authors like Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt and Leo Strauss.